Occupy Wall Street seeking splash with May Day protest
Occupy Wall Street protesters hope to rekindle the fire they sparked last year during demonstrations around the city Tuesday that are expected to draw thousands of activists, union workers and immigrants -- and a large NYPD contingent.
"We expect a revival of the type of actions we saw during the fall," said Mariano Munoz, a 32-year-old activist from Crown Heights. "We're going to see the work we've been doing over the last few months, but on steroids."
The protesters have called for a "general strike," asking New Yorkers -- and all Americans -- to skip work and join rallies in dozens of cities.
“Part of the message that we’re trying to get across is that the 99% make things run in this country,” said Mark Bray of the OWS press team. “Without us, society wouldn’t function ... Withdrawing our labor from the economy shows the power we have.”
“If it were sufficient to write letters to our Congress people or cast a ballot in November, we would be doing that,” Bray added. “The political system is not representing many of the things that we need.”
The day of events will begin at 8 a.m. with a “pop-up occupation” at Bryant Park, where demonstrators will convene before picketing banks, financial institutions and other companies in midtown. A 4 p.m. rally in Union Square will spill into a nearly three-mile march down Broadway to New York City Transit headquarters in the Financial District.
“This is not just about Occupy Wall Street, this is about the class of the 99%” said Charles Jenkins, Director of Organization for the Transport Workers Union, which has been without a contract with the MTA since January. “There is a lot of unrest in this country.”
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told amNewYork that union leaders received a permit for the march downtown, adding that they have done so every May 1 since 2005. He said the street would be closed to handle the crowds, which were estimated to hit as many as 15,000.
“NYPD does not disclose coverage plans,” Browne said in an email, but said “enough” cops would be on duty “to accommodate street closings and [perform] traffic control.”
Jackie DiSalvo, a Baruch College English professor and OWS organizer who has spent months planning the “May Day” events, said protesters plan to engage in “civil disobedience, not violence or mayhem,” outside places including Sotheby’s, several bank branches and post offices. More than 100 “stewards” will be on the sidelines during the day, DiSalvo said, “to make sure everything goes smoothly.”
“There’s going to a party aspect, a celebratory aspect,” added DiSalvo, 68, of Park Slope. “May Day has always been a celebration of workers and their solidarity.”
But Strike Everywhere, a group including some OWS protesters, said it was hoping for “commuter delays” at tunnels and bridges around the city.
Bruce Bentley of the National Lawyers Guild, which has represented many of the protesters, said dozens of legal observers will be on hand at sites throughout the city to monitor the NYPD’s interactions with demonstrators.
Bentley estimated that more than 2,300 people have been arrested at OWS-related events since protesters first began camping out in Zuccotti Park in September.
“I hope that their response will be reasonable, and without any excessive force,” Bentley said of the police.
Two different lawsuits were filed against the NYPD Monday, one alleging that cops improperly used barricades at a demonstration in November, and another filed by four city council members and OWS demonstrators asking for an independent panel to monitor the NYPD, which the suit claims routinely uses “excessive force” and violates the First Amendment rights of officials, protesters and the press.
“I’ve witnessed some things that I think are just not right,” Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn), one of the four officials named in the lawsuit, told amNewYork Monday.
“It’s very difficult for me to sit idly by and say that this is OK,” he added. “We need some accountability. We need some consistency.”
A spokeswoman for the city's law department said it had not yet received either suit.
8 a.m. - 2 p.m.: “Pop-up occupation” in Bryant Park
Throughout the day: Pickets outside offices in midtown
2 p.m.: March from Bryant Park to Union Square with “army of guitars,” led by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.: “Free University” lectures and classes in Madison Square Park
4 p.m.: Rally and performances in Union Square
5:30 - 7 p.m.: Permitted march down Broadway, from Union Square to NYC Transit Headquarters in Financial District